For 100 years, improvement work has focused mostly on processes (since the time that process improvement started in the early years of Ford Motor Company). This focus has ignored the barriers to change. These barriers come the management system – from management processes and management team interaction and are like the lid on a jar, but are invisible. The lid on a jar keeps the content of the jar inside the jar and prevents things on the outside from getting in. Barriers that make up the lid hide potential, prevent new ideas from coming in and keep old ideas and practices inside the jar alive. These invisible barriers also cause companies to not achieve their goals for change and go looking for another initiative… hence the “flavor of the month club”. Because “the lid” originates in the management system and outside the scope of initiatives or traditional improvement focus), process improvement has ignored or failed to recognize its existence or impact on the change process, which has handicapped every company in its ability to change and achieve optimization. Instead, we are taught to accept “the lid” as part of the change process that we have to work around OR we are unaware of barriers that work behind the scenes to sabotage what we are trying to change.

If we understand the lid, we can take off the lid with a new set of beliefs and behaviors that are “chosen” to achieve optimization. We can also make changes within management processes that reveal and release hidden potential for production and cost reduction. 3rd Stage Management is a management-focused process for optimization. It helps management teams understand and remove “the lid”, which makes it very different from process improvement work. Interestingly, when you remove the lid, it is possible to simultaneously change performance, culture, and management team effectiveness because the same barriers are responsible for deficiencies in all three areas.

Some say that management commitment is the key to change. The problem is that management teams can be fully committed to change in the traditional way, which will not remove “the lid”.  It is important for them to realize that “different choices” must be made to achieve optimization – both in the way they design and execute management processes (such as setting targets in the budget, expansion approvals, job descriptions, communications with key measures, etc.) and in the way they interact to solve problems, manage projects, and build trust within the team and with the workforce. If they understand that achieving site-wide optimization depends more on their choices than it does on equipment, they have a powerful platform to operate from.